Tuesday 23 May 2017

Man found not guilty by reason of insanity of unprovoked assaults on two women

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Fiona Ferguson

A 35-year-old Dublin man who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia has been found not (NOT) guilty by reason of insanity of unprovoked assaults on two women in Dublin city centre.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that at the time David Egan assaulted the two women he was suffering from delusions that he was being hypnotised at night and sexually assaulted.

Mr Egan believed that the women were laughing at him and taunting him about being raped.

Mr Egan, formerly of Longford Street Little but originally from Terenure, Dublin pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to assault causing harm to two women in separate assaults within an hour of each other in the city centre on April 14, 2015.

The court heard he had stopped taking his medication prior to these offences.

Mr Egan has spent most of his time since the assaults as an inpatient at the psychiatric unit in Beaumont Hospital. He is responding well to his current medication and environment.

Orla Crowe SC, defending, told the jury that Mr Egan admitted that the assaults took place but that due to his mental disorder he did not understand what he was doing at the time.

Both prosecution and defence asked the jury of one woman and eleven men to return the special verdict of not (NOT) guilty by reason of insanity available under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006.

This law allows that an accused person suffering from a mental disorder not to be held responsible for an alleged act if they meet certain criteria laid out in the legislation.

Consultant forensic psychiatrists for both sides agreed that Mr Egan fulfilled the criteria in that he did not know what he was doing was wrong and he was unable to stop himself from carrying out the assaults.

Judge Martin Nolan told the jury that the Oireachtas had passed a “compassionate and good act” which protects persons such as Mr Egan but also protects society. He told them Mr Egan would not walk free from the court if they returned the special verdict but that he would go to hospital to be assessed.

The jury took a matter of minutes to return its verdict.

Judge Nolan ordered that Mr Egan should be brought to the Central Mental Hospital where his treatment needs will be assessed. He adjourned the case to November 17 next.

Dr Brenda Wright, appearing for the defence, told Orla Crowe BL, defending, that Mr Egan had a considerable psychiatric history with numerous admissions to hospital from the age of 23.

She said he had been hearing voices from an early age and this became acute in his early twenties. He found the voices very distressing and was ultimately diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Dr Wright said on his account of the offences Mr Egan said the women had been laughing at him and saying he had been raped. He had stopped taking anti psychotic medication just before this incident.

She said he felt harassed and was so concerned that he was being raped in his sleep that he contacted the rape crisis centre and attended at garda stations. She said he believed at the time that the gardai would not assist him and he had to act in his own defence.

Dr Wright said that when Mr Egan was acutely unwell he heard very distressing auditory hallucinations and attributed the “voices” he heard to people in his environment.

She said his care had been complicated by a number of factors including poor compliance with his medication, not engaging with psychiatric services, a history of drug and alcohol use and homelessness. She said he had also become estranged from his family.

Dr Wright said that in her opinion at the time of the offence Mr Egan knew the nature and quality of what he was doing but did not know what he was doing was wrong as he held a psychotic moral justification for his actions.

She said she was also of the opinion he was unable to refrain from committing the offences and was overcome by frustration and anger.

Dr Wright agreed with Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting, that it was fair to say Mr Egan's illness was now under control. She said he was responding well to his current anti psychotic medication and residing in a controlled environment.

Earlier, Mr Foley told the jury in opening the case, that the first woman was walking along Aungier Street when she “blacked out” as she passed an off licence. She came around seconds later, still standing, with pain in her face, bleeding from her mouth and a tooth in her hand.

Mr Foley said she had been a victim of an assault by Mr Egan. She was assisted by a passer-by and taken to hospital when she later fainted. She had to be given a crown to replace a tooth.

He said that shortly afterwards a second woman was getting on her bicycle outside the Royal College of Surgeons when she was approached by Mr Egan who told her “I will teach you to be looking at people” before punching her in the face several times and running off.

Mr Egan was identified by gardai on CCTV. He was unfit to be interviewed until September when he made admissions in relation to the assaults and identified himself on the CCTV.

The court heard the two women had been deeply upset by the assaults but were relieved that they did not have to give evidence in the case.

Dr Fiona Toal, appearing for the prosecution, told Mr Foley that following assessment of Mr Egan she was of the opinion that his mental disorder was such that he did not know what he was doing was morally wrong and that he was unable to resist the impulse to strike both victims.

She said Mr Egan was suffering from delusions at the time and believed he was being hypnotised during the night and being forced to perform sex acts. He believed the women had spoken to him and taunted him about being raped.

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